Since the pandemic began, the staff at our Chapters Memory Care program have connected residents and families by placing over 500 video calls. Jennifer Honeyford, Vice President of Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, shares why these calls are so important, and provides tips to make them go more smoothly.

“One of the things that we know about people living with dementia is that it’s important for our brain to have socialization—and that’s very difficult with this public health crisis,” says Jennifer. “It’s good for mental health, especially during times of stress, to see that familiar face.”

That’s why PPH has done so many video chats during the pandemic. “We’ve made calls to NY, NJ and Florida—all over the United States,” says Jennifer. “Some residents who struggle with phone calls do really well with video chat.”

PPH uses Google Duo for the calls, which works with iPhones and Androids. “Our IT department did a nice job of converting laptops to a calling kiosk,” says Jennifer. “It’s a large screen, and we put amplifying headsets on the resident so they can hear clearly.”

“It’s very important for our residents to see their families’ faces and make that connection,” she continues. “Residents just look at the screen in awe—it’s very endearing.”

A few tips from Jennifer to keep in mind during the chat:

1. Watch the lighting. Set up in a well-lit area so your loved ones can see you well.

2. Find an area with a good connection. Hearing clearly is another important part of the experience.

3. Slow down. Speak slowly and clearly. Allow your loved one time to respond. Some adult children keep asking, “Mom, can you hear me?”

If you’re firing away questions, your loved one is going to get overwhelmed and shut down the conversation.

4. Be patient. Video calls are a different way of communicating, and something your loved one needs to process. People do get more comfortable with the calls after they’ve done them a few times and really look forward to them.

5. Don’t worry if your loved one is quiet. It could be that the person can’t find the words to communicate, but they are still taking it all in and enjoying the experience.

6. Keep the conversation positive. Residents living with dementia have a heightened sense of emotion, so be careful not to talk about serious topics, like the deaths of old friends. And please don’t say, “Mom, your hair looks awful.”

Be light and positive, because later, your loved one may not remember what you said, but they will remember the mood you set.

7. Consider a group chat. A group chat can have a nice holiday dinner-table feel. Being part of that laughter, and socialization with the group, is a fun experience. The resident can just listen if they want, and other family members will chime in.

 8. Try something special. Often, for birthdays, families send cupcakes before the call. They sing happy birthday, and afterward, residents take back cupcakes to their floor and feel proud. You can also bring pets on the call—people really love that.

9. Realize the value of the experience. You can’t always tell how much your loved one enjoyed the visit at the time, but the good feelings linger long afterward. The goal is to make people feel connected.

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful, and we look forward to welcoming you back to our campus. We are now scheduling safe, in-person visits to the community. Please call us at 215-697-8086 to arrange your personal tour. Or, if you’re more comfortable visiting virtually, we also offer this option. In the meantime, click here to watch our Virtual Information Series, a collection of informative videos about life at PPH.